A Marin Winter Waterfall Hike at Cascade Canyon

December 27, 2014

Cascade Falls Fairfax Marin CountyOur family really loves hiking in Marin during the winter, especially when there's a waterfall involved. One of Marin's favorite family hikes is at Cascade Canyon Open Space Preserve near Fairfax. The trail here winds through Elliott Nature Preserve, along San Anselmo Creek, to the 20-foot Cascade Falls. It's particularly popular during the winter and spring when the creek is flowing, but it's a great place for a fun family hike at any time of year. This easy out-and-back hike is about 1.5 miles round trip.

Start out at the trailhead on Cascade Drive in Fairfax and head onto Cascade Fire Road. San Anselmo Creek burbles along to your left, and you'll find a couple good flat spots for the kids to walk down and explore the creek. Ordinarily you'll follow Cascade Fire Road for approximately a half mile until it meets with Cascade Falls Trail, fording shallow parts of the creek in a couple spots.

Christmas Tree Recycling in Marin

December 26, 2014

Christmas treeAs December draws to a close and the New Year begins, the time comes bid farewell to your Christmas tree. It's a sad but inevitable fact of life that your tree has to go at some point, unless you have an artificial Christmas tree, in which case you can probably stop reading right here.

Fortunately, your local disposal agency is usually more than happy to take your dried out old Noble Fir off your hands and do the green thing with the tree by recycling it. If for some reason you can't leave your tree out by the curb with your yard waste, you can drop it off at a number of different locations, including most fire houses, throughout Marin County.

Keep in mind that you need to remove all ornaments, lights, tinsel, and plastic tree bags from the tree before you put it out for pick up. (Don't forget to remove metal or plastic stands, too.)

Here's a rundown of Christmas tree disposal details for communities in Marin:

Marin Sanitary

For Larkspur, Greenbrae, Kentfield, Las Gallinas Valley, Ross, San Anselmo, San Rafael, Fairfax, and Ross Valley (Sleepy Hollow and Oak Manor): Trees will be collected at the curb on your regular yard waste pickup day during the month of January. One pickup per residence. If trees are greater than 6 feet in length, please cut them in half. Remove all metal stands, plastic tree bags, and ornaments. Flocked trees will not be accepted.

Marin Weekend Family Fun for December 26, 27 & 28

December 24, 2014
Whale watching point reyes lighthouse
Visit Point Reyes Lighthouse this weekend for the start of whale watching season.

Here are our picks for great events and activities for children and families this weekend. Find more events for the whole week in Marin and beyond in our Family Events Calendar.

You can also hit the ice at Marin on Ice or another Bay Area seasonal skating rink, which will be open during the holidays. Check out our guide to local ice skating here.

Friday, December 26

  • Learn to Skate at McInnis
    McInnis Park, San Rafael
    Friday, 11 am–1 pm

    Join us at the McInnis Skate Park where rangers will offer tips and techniques for beginners as well as ways to attack features that build confidence and skill. This event is ideal for all ages. All skill levels are welcome and no experience is necessary. Wear comfortable athletic clothing and sturdy shoes. Don’t forget to bring your board, helmet, and pads. Rain will cancel. Park entrance is free. Location: 310 Smith Ranch Road, San Rafael. For more info, visit their website.
  • Boswick the Clown's Variety Show
    Un-Scripted Theatre, San Francisco
    Friday–Sunday, 11 am

    Former Ringling Brothers Clown Boswick is famous for his antics, his playfulness and being able to make children laugh with hysterics. Join Boswick at the beautiful Un-Scripted Theatre, just two blocks from Union Square, in the heart of San Francisco's Theatre District. Boswick the Clown presents clown sketches, juggling, and story telling in an intimate setting. Your children will laugh till they're red in the face! Tickets: $15. Location: 533 Sutter Street. For more info, visit their website.
  • San Francisco Ballet Nutcracker
    War Memorial Opera House

    Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 2 & 7 pm
    San Francisco Ballet’s awe-inspiring production is like no other, with colorful, larger-than-life scenery, over 200 dazzling costumed characters, and of course Tchaikovsky’s beautiful score performed live by the world-class San Francisco Ballet Orchestra. Performances of Nutcracker run through December 29. Ticket prices start at $26. For more info, call (415) 865-2000 or visit their website.
  • LEGO Play Day
    Mill Valley Public Library
    Friday, 2:30–4 pm

    Get in touch with your inner engineer! Free play with LEGO supports creativity, problem solving, and reading skills—and it's fun! Free, no sign-up required. For ages 5 and up. Location: Creekside Room, Mill Valley Library, 375 Throckmorton Avenue. For more information, visit their website.
  • Le Cirque de Bohème Holiday Circus
    Cornerstone Sonoma
    Friday, 5 pm, Saturday, 1 & 5 pm

    This Christmas, Cornerstone Sonoma presents a winter circus for the holidays by Le Cirque de Bohème. Experience the magic of a 1920s style circus based on the French tradition, featuring a magician, contortionist, jugglers, mimes, an eccentric clown, a knife-thrower, and other assorted denizens of 1920s Paris. Tickets cost $25 for adults and $15 for kids under 15. Last year many of these performances sold out early, so get your tickets soon. Order tickets online. Location: 23570 Highway 121, Sonoma. For more info, visit their website.
  • San Francisco Zoo Lights
    San Francisco Zoo
    Friday–Sunday, 5–8 pm

    Come get a feeling for the San Francisco Zoo at night under magical holiday lights! Make your way from Entry Village to the Elinor Friend Playground for some magical playtime under the stars. Stop by to see Santa Claus to put in some last-minute requests. Grab some hot apple cider or cocoa and head over to the Playfield Lawn pay a visit to Santa's special reindeer Belle, Holly, Peppermint, and Velvet. And there will be light snow flurries at Zoo Lights, so bundle up! $7 adults, $5 kids 4–14, free 3 and under. For more information, visit their website.

Saturday, December 27

  • Marin Country Mart Farmers Market
    Marin Country Mart, Larkspur Landing
    Saturday, 9 am–2 pm

    Enjoy the best local and organic produce, flowers, pastured meats, seafood, organic cheeses, yogurt and milk, breads, baked goods, pasta, confections, olive oil, and brunch and lunch offerings! Kids can take a pony ride and visit the petting zoo (10 am–2 pm), try out some arts and crafts (9 am–2 pm) and enjoy family entertainment (9:30–10:30 am). For more info, visit their website.
  • Whale Watching at Point Reyes Lighthouse
    Point Reyes National Seashore
    Weekends, 9 am–3:30 pm

    Go see the whales out at the Point Reyes Light House and Chimney Rock. Shuttle buses leave Drakes Beach every 15–20 minutes. The cost is $7 per person. Children under 16 are free. No cars allowed at Point Reyes Light House on weekends and holidays December 26 thr. For more info, visit their website.
  • Nature Walk at King Mountain
    King Mountain Open Space Preserve, Kentfield
    Saturday, 9–11 am
    Take a two-mile trek through your local forest and connect to its natural wonders with Ranger Ian McLorg. This will be an easy to moderate hike exploring the King Mountain Loop Trail. Learn about the area’s unique natural resources and features through some fun, interactive activities. Dress in layers, wear sturdy shoes (it could be muddy or slippery), and bring water and snacks. Meet at the gate at the end of Ridgecrest Road in Kentfield. For more information, visit their website.
  • Paint with Bubbles
    Sonoma County Children's Museum, Santa Rosa
    Saturday, 10:30 am-noon

    Join us to see all the different types of art you can make using soap and water. For ages 10 and under. Programs are free with admission to the Museum. Location: 1835 W. Steele Lane, Santa Rosa. For more info, call (707) 546-4069 or visit their website.
  • STEAM Saturdays: Gravity Painting and Color Mixing
    San Rafael Library
    Saturday, 11–11:45 am

    Join us for STEAM powered stories, rhymes, songs, crafts, experiments, and sensory experiences for preschool children ages 3–6 and their caregivers. This Saturday, Gravity Painting and Color Mixing. Location: 1100 E Street, San Rafael. For more info, visit their website.

Where's Santa Now? NORAD Tracks Santa 2014!

December 23, 2014

NORAD Santa Tracker websiteEvery Christmas, the men and women of NORAD take a break from tracking the skies and waterways of North America and instead follow Santa Claus on his annual Christmas trek around the globe. You can check out Saint Nick's progress live online at NORAD's special Santa Tracking website, www.noradsanta.org. You can also track Santa on a new mobile app available for iOS, Android, or Windows devices.

NORAD's tradition of tracking Santa's route started in 1955, when a local Sears store in Colorado Springs printed the wrong phone number in a Christmastime advertisement for children to call Santa. The phone number was in fact that of the CONAD (the predececessor of NORAD, which took over the tradition in 1958) operations hotline, and the staff under Colonel Harry Shoup responded with good humor and gave the children who called in updates on Santa's position.

Family Friendly New Year's Eve Events in Marin and the Bay Area

December 23, 2014

New Year's Even Bell Ringing Asian Art MuseumSay goodbye to 2014 and welcome in the New Year at one of these family friendly events taking place in Marin and elsewhere in the Bay Area. Many of these celebrations take place earlier in the day or evening on December 31st so little ones can get a taste of New Year's Eve fun without staying up past their bedtimes.

  • Noon Year's Eve
    Bay Area Discovery Museum
    , Sausalito
    Wednesday, 9 am–2 pm
    Bring your family to the Museum for our annual Noon Year’s Eve Party. Dance along to DJ jams, count down to noon, and watch the ball drop in Festival Plaza. Stop by Studio 10 and make a festive party crown. Please note that the Museum is open from 9 am–2 pm on New Year’s Eve. Tickets: $11 general, free for members and infants under 6 months. Reserve your Bubbles & Beads party package for $7, which includes an exciting bubble wand, party bead necklace, snazzy sunglasses, and exciting noise maker, to help ring in the Noon Year. For more info, visit their website.
  • Annual Japanese Bell Ringing Ceremony
    Asian Art Museum, San Francisco
    Wednesday, 9:30–11:30 am

    Ring in the New Year by taking a swing at a giant 2,100-pound, 16th-century, Japanese temple bell at the Asian Art Museum. Participants may take turns ringing the museum’s bronze bell to leave behind any unfortunate experiences, regrettable deeds, and ill luck of the previous year. This time slot is exclusive to members. Bell-ringing opens to general admission at 11:30 am. First come, first served. Pick up tickets to ring the bell at the admission desk. Location: 200 Larkin Street, San Francisco. For more info, visit their website.

Easy Individual Chicken Pot Pies

December 22, 2014

individual chicken pot pieUse up leftover rotisserie chicken in these quick, easy, and delicious individual pot pies. The kids love getting their own little pies, and they really like both helping make and eating them! Topping each pie with a square of frozen puff pastry dough makes this really easy to make any night of the week.

If you don’t have any leftover chicken you can just cook up a couple boneless skinless chicken breasts for an equally tasty dish. Full of vegetables, they're meals in themselves.

Feel free to adapt this recipe to whatever you happen to have on hand—other vegetables you can use include broccoli, cauliflower, and sliced mushrooms, and you can use any kind of leftover meat, or none at all for a vegetarian version (substitute veggie broth for the chicken broth). Dried herbs may be used instead of fresh—use half the amount indicated in the recipe.

If you don’t have ramekins, you can make one large pot pie in a casserole dish and place the puff pastry dough over the top; cooking time may vary from that indicated.


10 Fun Outing Ideas for Winter Break

December 22, 2014

Rombeiro Christmas House NovatoWinter Break is here! While you'll probably spend plenty of time with family and friends for Christmas, you'll also need to keep the little ones occupied, and there are plenty of fun things to do in and around Marin with the kids during their time off! Check out our list of 10 fun family activities and outings, both indoor and outdoor, for winter break.

Easy Handmade Holiday Bead Ornaments

December 22, 2014

Bead ornamentsYour kids can exercise their holiday creativity by making these easy and festive bead ornaments for the Christmas tree. They also look great attached to wrapped gifts as a little holiday extra.

These ornaments are simple to make, although the candy cane ornament is easier to put together than the star and probably a better project for younger children. All you'll need to make these are pipe cleaners, plastic beads in various colors and shapes, some ribbon, and scissors.

To create the candy canes, take a pipe cleaner and cut it in half. (We used holiday-colored red, white, and green pipe cleaners.) Slip one white bead onto the pipe cleaner and run it to the end. Bend over the last 1/4-inch or so of the pipe cleaner to hold the bead in place.

Seven Wonderful Winter Family Hikes in Marin

December 21, 2014

Fairway Waterfall Novato Marin County Open SpaceSince we seem to be getting a break from the rain, why not take advantage of the beautiful weather by taking a family hike? There are so many amazing spots in Marin County that are perfect for a hike or nature walk with kids, whether they're in a baby backpack, a stroller, or walking on their own.

The winter landscape in Northern California can be breathtaking, too, with bright green grass and even some wildflowers showing their faces. Here are five of our favorite amazing Marin hikes for families, perfect for winter or any time, really. Remember to wear layered clothing, and it's usually a good idea to let the kids wear their rain boots on muddy winter trails.

The Fairway Waterfall

in Novato (also known as the Arroyo de San Jose Waterfall) is a fantastic destination for a winter family hike. It's short and there's an amazing payoff at the end of the trail in the form of a 30-foot waterfall!

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